What is Variegated Philodendron Poisoning?

The variegated philodendron (more commonly known as 'scindapsus') is a species of evergreen shrub that is native to the jungles of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Historically, it has been cultivated for the medicinal properties that certain parts of the plant provide, but in modern times it is usually found as a houseplant due to its large leaves and relatively small root base. However, if eaten, the vast majority of animals will find scindapsus to be quite poisonous, with the toxins contained within provoking illness in many species, including cats.

Symptoms of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Variegated philodendron poisoning will typically produce some fairly noticeable symptoms. Owners should try to obtain veterinary help as soon as possible, so that the impact of the plant on their pet is wisely minimized.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Oral Irritation 
  • Redness and swelling around the lips 
  • Excess salivation

Causes of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

The variegated philodendron plant contains large amounts of insoluble calcium oxalates. This substance is produced by a large number of plants in order to make them as inedible as possible for animals, thereby improving the species' survivability. The insoluble calcium oxalates are (as the name would suggest) a solidified form of calcium and oxalic acid. They solidify into extremely sharp, tiny crystals that work by digging into the soft tissues of the target animal, causing widespread irritation in a short amount of time. Thus, as soon as the scindapsus is eaten, it will start to irritate the mouth of the victim. As the plant matter is swallowed and digested, the oxalate crystals will continue to dig into tissues in the stomach and bowels, eventually provoking vomiting and diarrhea.

Diagnosis of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Once the cat has been presented at the clinic, the vet will perform a physical examination in order to assess the symptoms for themselves and check for anything that the owner may have missed. It will also provide an opportunity for them to test the animal's vital signs and reaction to various stimulus. Due to the common and distinctive nature of oxalate poisoning, the vet may be able to make a diagnosis using the physical examination alone. Additionally, the vet will usually have a number of questions for the owner of the cat, mostly pertaining to the circumstances surrounding the poisoning and the animal's medical history. Although seemingly inconsequential, this information can be of great help when trying to diagnose an illness and decide on a course of treatment.

Treatment of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

In order to dislodge the oxalate crystals that have embedded themselves in the tissues of the cat's digestive tract, the vet will often feed the animal a meal consisting of simple yogurt. This is viscous enough to carry the crystals out of the body, whilst also being quite easy to digest. If the vomiting and diarrhea has resulted in dehydration, the vet may also opt to start the cat on fluid therapy, which will intravenously put more liquids back into their system than could be accomplished by simply coercing them to drink.

Recovery of Variegated Philodendron Poisoning in Cats

Most cats suffering from oxalate poisoning will be back to their old selves in under a week without the need for follow-up appointments, as the symptoms' persistence is entirely contingent on the continued presence of the crystals in the body. The vet will usually recommend that the owner continues to feed the cat a diet of yoghurt for a few days, as this will both remove the remaining crystals from the body and give the animal's digestive system a chance to recover before it returns to digesting solid foods. It may also be wise to restrict the cat's movement for a little while in order to ensure that they are well rested so that recovery times are minimized.